Witnessing the Raw Humanity of an Illinois Flea Market

"Can I get some proof that these all haven't been in someone before?"

Here’s the scenario: You need something random for your house or apartment.

“Need” is a little strong. You want something for your abode, but it’s nothing that you’re actually wanting to spend any sort of significant amount of money for. Pier One, Crate and Barrell, even places like Target can get pricey. You’re looking for a full-length mirror on a stand, not a $75 investment. There is only one place you can turn, knowing that you can get something that has character, use, and shouldn’t be too expensive: A flea market.

This gypsy station is home to numerous vendors and outlets selling any number of objects that most people would say “I couldn’t possibly SELL this, could I?” And by “numerous” I mean literally countless. It is their nomadic lifestyle, these haggling carnival-types, to get the best possible deal for the most obscurely coveted objects known to man.

My quest for a full-length mirror on a stand took me to an Illinois flea market, and it was a harrowing experience I hesitate to take you through. The sheer humanity of it all may be more than some of the younger viewers here can take, so be careful. Most of these can be classified into a few different subsets, I’ll try and be as precise as possible.

1.) Who Would Ever Want Anything Close to This?:

"Fabio: Rockin' That Cleavage" (VHS)

There’s a wide assortment of VHS tapes at flea markets. And by “wide assortment” I mean “Every VHS ever made is now somewhere in a flea market.” It looks to me like these people are convinced that somewhere down the line, it’s going to be discovered that DVD’s and BluRays cause instant cancer, and when the market shifts back to VHS’s, they’ll be ready to pounce. All of them are about $2.00 now, but you can bet they’ll be close to $3 or EVEN FOUR DOLLARS when that whole DVD-cancer thing explodes.

"How can Jimmy cut Superman's Indestructible Hair of Steel?" asked absolutely no one, ever.

Comic books, like baseball cards and Nazi paraphernalia (more on that later!), are coveted for some strange reason, but to each their own. I like superheros and all that jazz, but seriously, a “Superman’s Pal” feature on Jimmy Olsen? The ONLY reason I might consider even looking through this, let alone purchase it, would be that I know Jimmy Olsen is a news photographer and there might be some hilarious hijinks in store as he tries to cut people’s hair. But not Superman’s, because apparently it’s indestructible? Doubtful.

Ahh, fake wine glasses, the oldest trick in the Get-Me-To-Drink-Fire-Handbook.

Ever want some romantic candles without the aesthetic pain in the neck that most candles come in, like jars or slightly decorative glasses? Well, think again! Now, YOU can have all of the allure of a passionate candlelit dinner with all of the class of someone who always has two full glasses of wine on their table, at all times. This looks like something that some redneck dreamed up when he was fastening his clip on tie and thinking “You know, I don’t really wear this enough.” Other consideration points: WHAT IF YOU WANT TO DRINK WHITE WINE?


"You couldn't possibly make a salt 'n' pepper shaker racist!" "CHALLENGE ACCEPTED."

/Covers face in hands
//Rubs temples
///Deep breath
These are relics of the past. As we all know, it was a very different time. A very different, and very racist time. In fact, it was so different, and so racist, that nowadays, the absurdity of it makes us laugh and laugh and laugh. This is one of those occasions. Go ahead and get it out. I’ll wait….alright, you done yet? No? Okay, a little longer…Now? Great. So these are standard salt and pepper shakers. I don’t know why anyone would’ve ever wanted them, but apparently, they were in high enough demand that this isn’t the only pair I saw at the flea market or have ever seen. As I was taking this picture, the vendor – who looked like a really, really nice guy, by the way – said “You wouldn’t have to take a picture of it if you buy it!” Right, but then I’d have two racist salt and pepper shakers sitting on my kitchen table. So…no.

"What am I going to have to do to put YOU in a Nazi armband TODAY?" - Used Nazi Arm Band Dealer

I don’t necessarily fancy myself a history buff, but I do enjoy WWII history and such. I know there are a lot more rabid history buffs out there, who, while not wanting to be hateful or whatever, and actually wear these armbands to assemblies and whatnot, might just want them as collectables. I tried to explain it to my friends, who were slightly more baffled than I was. I related it to the St. Louis Cardinals winning the World Series back in 2006. If you had a whole history room or shrine dedicated to the Cards and their Championship, you might have a Sports Illustrated or two featuring the Detroit Tigers, the team they beat in the World Series. Maybe even a hat or two. The argument kind of falls apart once the Detroit Tigers start religiously persecuting and murdering several million people, but…I guess you see what I mean. 

Republicans vs. Gays: Est. 1922

So this isn’t racist, or homophobic even. It just made me laugh. Something something, blah blah blah, GAY JOKE!

3.) Troublingly Devoid of Any Value Whatsoever:

The Ghost of Gloria Lang

I’ve really got nothing to say here. I think this woman may be the vendor (although there was no one manning the station) and is hoping that her kind demeanor in the late 40’s and 50’s may be just the bargaining chip to seal some deal on a ceiling mounted toaster or something. But I doubt it. I think she was just lonely. Or dead. Probably dead. 

You know more than one deer died in the making of this four-legged lamp.

I’m from Arkansas, and the South in general has a much more tolerant perception of the use of dead animals in the field of interior decorating. In high school, I went over to a girl’s house that had a couple of different bears, an elephant head, and like ten antlered-animals I didn’t even know existed, all mounted in the living room. The house I grew up in had no less than three ducks on the wall, and a deer head above the mantle. I get it. I don’t get making a lamp stand out of the hooves of a deer though. Because there’s outdoorsy…and then there’s mild sociopathic tendencies.

And by the way, never found that mirror. So, yes, I could very well be venturing into this venue again next month, when the gypsies return from their voyage into Indiana and possibly beyond. I guess all of that walking is what gives them their healthy appearance, healthy, of course, considering their almost entirely 100 percent pretzeldog diet.


Published by Zack Stovall

Writer living in New York, NY.

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